As a non-biologist, my understanding is SARS-CoV-2 uses it spike protein to latch on to the ACE2 receptor on cells in order to inject its genetic material into the cell.


  1. What would happen if you flooded a person with exogenous ACE2 proteins?
  2. Would the virus attach to these decoy proteins and thereby save cells from being infected?
  3. Would the injected proteins cause unwanted side effects?
  4. Has this approach to treating viral infections been tried before?

Reference: https://f1000research.com/articles/9-72

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology.SE! Please take the tour and then go through the help pages starting with How to Ask questions effectively on this site and edit your question accordingly. In particular, each question should be posted separately — this improves the chances that you will get answers for each question and makes the answers more accessible for future users. In addition, if you are trying to "start a discussion" this isn't the site you're looking for. Finally, if you've read the linked paper you likely know whether these questions have answers and what they are as well as anyone here. Thanks! 😊 $\endgroup$ – tyersome Mar 16 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ I must admit your comment seems rather harsh. I don't have a biology background and included the paper as hopefully someone could use it to help me answer my questions (I was having trouble understanding it fully). My questions seem quite specific and don't see how I was inviting a discussion? Furthermore, prior to you commenting there was also an upvote. $\endgroup$ – Anony-mouse Mar 16 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ A relevant article can be seen here. $\endgroup$ – Anony-mouse Apr 17 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ SE Biology is a site primarily for questions about the mechanisms of biological processes that allow objective answers. Although I understand your concern about the coronavirus outbreak, your question is not about the biology of the virus but asks for comments on a proposal for treating the disease. Such questions about any disease are off-topic here. I suggest that you consult more appropriate reputable sources for such information, some of which are listed here. $\endgroup$ – David Apr 18 at 21:28

This is indeed a reputable strategy (#1,2,4) for rapid response to novel pathogens. See https://phys.org/news/2020-01-scientists-decoy-molecule-neutralizes-arenaviruses.html and the open access article it cites https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-13924-6

In the case of coronavirus, however, there is an issue (your #3) in that ACE2 is an enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of a circulating hormone, angiotensin II, which is responsible for maintaining high (or normal) blood pressure. So the "bait" used would have to be at least somewhat altered from this. You would probably have to take into account how it affected other protein interactions such as with integrin beta 1 ... (see articles like https://europepmc.org/article/MED/14754895 ) to avoid getting caught up in speculation, it makes sense that a neutralizing protein might be made from part of ACE2 just as a neutralizing monoclonal antibody could be made, but you still have to have something specific before you can test for safety and efficacy.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you very much. This is very helpful! $\endgroup$ – Anony-mouse Mar 16 at 16:56

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